By Shannon Drayer
It has been interesting following the debate on whether or not players associated with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Many who have a vote have expressed being uncomfortable that the issue has been put in their hands. Others are very comfortable with their views and apply them as such to their ballots. There are strong feelings on both sides and the back and forth on Twitter has at times become contentious. While I do not have a vote I do have an opinion on this issue and would like to share it.
First, it is important to point out that it is just an opinion. An opinion like the voters have, just without the vote. While I have strong feelings on the issue based on my time around the game I cannot say that there is a right or wrong in this case. I don't think anyone should say there is a right or a wrong. Any voter who has made an informed decision should have his or her views on the matter respected even if they don't agree with yours or that of other voters. This is why humans make the call.
Over at The Seattle Times, Geoff Baker and Larry Stone sit on different sides of the fence. Stone included Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on his ballot. Baker did not and tweeted his reason why:
Voters don't see eye to eye when it comes to the debate about whether or not players associated with PEDs should be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (AP)
"My stance on HoF ballot. Those confessed/linked to/Mitchell Reported/confidential reported/etc. with PEDs don't get in. Those merely rumored/suspected of PED use with zero evidence don't get ruled out merely by suspicion alone. Voted for Bagwell last year."
I agree with his stance. If the association is strong enough and there is evidence • strong evidence as I am in no way, shape or form comfortable with pointing fingers and saying a guy "looks like he did steroids" • then that player would not appear on my ballot if I had one. Pure and simple, that player cheated.
I don't care if 90 percent of baseball was cheating at the time. To blanket such players as representative of the Steroid Era I believe is a cop-out. I would be more comfortable going with empty classes from that era if necessary than admitting those who lied, cheated, covered up and ultimately did more damage to the game than those who scuffed baseballs. Empty classes would be better representation, in my opinion. If the Hall of Fame is for the ages I don't think you can just look at a time period and excuse such transgressions as, "Well, everyone was doing it."
Everyone was not doing it. I have sat with a handful of players from that era who have feelings on the matter much stronger than mine because it directly impacted them. I have heard the frustration in their voices when they talked of taking the right path and trying to compete on an uneven playing field. Of never making the money or gaining the acclaim that many of the cheaters did. Of losing time and ultimately careers to injuries that perhaps could have been helped by PEDs. The final insult would be to see those who cheated in the Hall of Fame.
The decision would be personal for me as it is no doubt for the voters. My sense of right and wrong would put these question marks over any numbers, no matter how impressive. It would be an issue of character as well. Not so much to judge, but to compare. On one hand you have players like Ted Williams, who put his quest for numbers aside for three years to serve his country, or Roberto Clemente, who lost his life delivering aid to an earthquake-ravaged country.
On the other hand you have guys who stuck needles into their bodies in back rooms, had packages sent to middlemen or spouses, who frequented questionable doctors and hid vials, pills and syringes. Do they belong on the same wall?
There are some who are uncomfortable voting on character issues and believe that it does not have a place in determining worthiness for admission. It should not be ignored, however, Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson pointed out in an interview with SI's Joe Posnanski in 2011.
"There's a certain integrity required when it comes to baseball's highest honor," he said. "The character clause isn't there to evaluate and judge players socially. It's there to relate to the game on the field. The voters should have the freedom to measure that however they see fit."
Yes, there are bad character players in the Hall of Fame but that is on the voters who voted them in. A voter should vote his conscience, his experience, his gut on the issues and that for the most part will be different from voter to voter. As long as the voter does this, however, his vote is correct regardless of decision.
My hope is that the players in question get a second chance, in front of the Veterans Committee. It is those who played the game that I feel should make the final call.